Sunday, November 8, 2015

Tavella Murder: 5 'arrests', 5 secret detentions, 4 'confessions

MA Matin, at the magistrate court
On Thursday, 5 November New Age published an article on the alleged pick up by law enforcing authorities of MA Matin, the brother of MA Quayum who law enforcement authorities alleged was the master-mind behind the killings of the Italian NGO worker in Dhaka at the end of September.

In front of many eye-witnesses, including shopkeepers and local people, at about 7.30 pm on Tuesday the 20 October, as he was on his way to say his prayers, Matin was pushed into a microbus van just around the corner from where he lived by men in plain clothes.

As the article went to press, 15 days after this detention, Matin was still missing - presumably in the secret and illegal detention of law enforcement authorities.

However, early that very morning - somewhat miraculously - the police suddenly announced that "the detective branch has arrested MA Matin in connection with Tavella murder from Benapole, Jessore tonight while [he was] trying to leave the country."

When he was brought to court, his lawyer told the magistrate about the earlier illegal detention 15 days earlier, but the magistrate ignored it and remanded him in (further?) police custody for eight days.

Matin's detention has now brought to five the number of men picked up by law enforcement authorities between ten and fifteen days before latter they were 'arrested' for involvement in the killing of the Italian.

As New Age has reported:
  • On 10 October, at about 11 am Russel Chowdhury, was picked by Zeahad Hossain, the investigation officer of the Tavella Murder from his home
  • On 12 October, at about 5.30 pm Minhajul Abedin Russel, was picked up outside Waltons, near the Gulshan-Badda link road
  • On 12 October, at about the same time, Tamjid Ahmed Rubel was picked up from the Gulshan-Badda link road
  • On 14 October, late at night, Shakhawat Hossain Sharif was picked up from his house in Badda.
However,  all four men were however brought before the media on 26 October with the police claiming to have arrested them the previous night - on the 25 October.

Human rights organizations have reported that torture is widely used by the Bangladesh police to extract confessions. This happens even when the accused have been remanded into police custody by order of the magistrate - but these five men were before being judicially remanded to police custody, were illegally and secretly in police detention for nearly two weeks.

In the subsequent few days, all four of the men are reported to have given confessional statements to a magistrate. One should note that apart from the likelihood of torture, during the whole period of illegal/secret and then legal detention, they were never allowed to see a lawyer.
  • Tamjid Ahmed gave a statement on the day of his alleged 'arrest' by the police on 26 October
  • Minhajul Arifen Russel gave a statement on November 1 
  • Shakhawat Hossain gave a statement on November 3.
  • Russel Chowdhury gave a statement on November 5
After Tamjid Ahmed gave his confession, he was remanded by the magistrate to jail custody and, as reported by New Age, when his family met him the next morning in jail, he told them that he was not involved in the murder and that he was tortured to confess.

The police say that the statement of Minhajul Arifen Russel, given on 1 November, had mentioned the name of MA Matin as the alleged financier of the operation - and it was on this basis that Matin was 'arrested' four days later on 5 November (though of course he had been illegally detained 15 days earlier).

Apart from the total lack of credibility in the investigation that come from 'arresting' people weeks after they were in fact secretly detained, then claiming that they were involved in a murder, and getting them to give confessions (which at least one of them says was extracted under torture) within days of their 'arrest', the 'arrest' of MA Matin provides even greater reason to question the credibility of the investigation. This is the chronology:
  • The four men, whom Matin's brother is alleged to have financed to kill Cesara, were picked up by the police between 10 and 14 October.
  • If Matin was at all involved in this crime, he would certainly have known that these detentions had happened, since it was big news in the local area where he lived (Badda) and it was reported in many news papers.
  • Assuming that these four men actually were involved in the murder and Matin was their financier, Matin would have known that there was a high risk that hat the police would find out about this role.
  • However, we are then supposed to believe that Matin, rather than going into hiding, just stays in his house for the following week/ten days continuing with his normal life. 
  • And then provides no obstacle at all for the police to pick him up on 20 October.
However, we can all be sure that we will only have to wait a few days before Matin 'confesses' - and further 'corroborates' his own role and that of his brother - and perhaps even of BNP leaders - in the murder of Cesare Tavella.

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